American Samoa Hospital Offers Full Scholarships For Doctors To Train In Fiji

Program to ensure LBJ has Samoan doctors well into the future

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, August 25, 2016) – The LBJ hospital with the assistance of the American Samoa Government is offering a “full scholarship to the Fiji School of Medicine” and this is one way to assure that 10 years from now there will still be Samoan physicians working at the hospital, says hospital Chief Executive Officer, Taufete’e John Faumuina.

Responding to Samoa News questions the CEO said that the management and the hospital board say they are looking at the future of the hospital and the need to have Samoan doctors on board.

He also confirmed that hospital board Chairman, Filifa’atali Mike Fuiava, board member Etenauga Lutu, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga, Dr. James Sunia and Medical Director of the Department of Health, Tamasoaali’i Dr. John Tufa are in Fiji to “negotiate” the terms of students coming from American Samoa to attend Fiji’s School of Medicine.

According to Taufete’e, the Samoan physicians currently working at LBJ will soon retire and the board and management felt obligated to find a way to continue to have Samoan physicians working at the hospital.

He said that the majority of the physicians that have been hired by LBJ are graduates of Fiji School of Medicine — “so why not send our students to Fiji.”

Taufete’e told Samoa News “there is no pool for physicians” in the territory for the hospital to choose from and that is a problem that LBJ is trying to “fix”.

The hospital CEO hopes that students who are interested will take up this opportunity as it’s fully funded by the LBJ. He did not specify the dollar amount of the scholarship, but stated that the money has been set aside for this scholarship.

According to the advertisement in the Samoa News, application requirements include a copy of degree(s) [with] focus on science; a resume; two letters of recommendations, and a one-page personal statement essay. Applications must be submitted by October 31, 2016.

It does not indicate how applications will be vetted.

The hospital CEO said that they are hoping to send a student to school when the spring semester starts in January.

(Samoa News should point out this is not the first time LBJ has offered a scholarship for medical studies. during Taufete’e’s first tenure as LBJ CEO a scholarship was awarded to one of his immediate family members,)

USMLE CERTIFIED REQUIREMENT

Last year July, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga in a letter to former hospital board chairman Mase Akapo, said the hospital needs to set up a scholarship program, specifically for students to attend accredited off island medical institutions or schools.

He said that is one way to ease the hospital’s dependence on US and foreign physicians and improve LBJ’s self-reliance and the board must reactivate the practice of sending “our people” to the Fiji School of Medicine with the provision that they will sit and pass their USMLE exam before a license is issued to practice in American Samoa.

Samoa News asked Taufete’e about the hospital’s requirement for physicians to be United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) certified; and the CEO said that such certification is no longer required of physicians hired by the hospital for the time being.

He said the reason why it’s important for physicians to be USMLE certified is for the hospital to have “easy access” to Medicare and Medicaid funds, but it’s not required by the hospital itself.

FIJI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

According to the Fiji School of Medicine’s website the college has the vision to be the leading health workforce academic education and research institution in the Pacific Region. “It strives for Excellence and Relevance in all that it does and focuses on graduating compassionate and competent health professionals who will improve the health of people in the Pacific Region.

“The College delivers undergraduate programs in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, health, medical imaging, medical laboratory technology, public, nutrition, physiotherapy, nursing and midwifery. To extend the formal academic program, short courses are offered in areas such as reproductive health, trauma management, advanced life support and disaster management, emergency health, phlebotomy and treatment of Tuberculosis.”

The Samoa News
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